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This grim murder ballad has a long history and in folksong has taken many different routes and locations. An early copy is entitled “The Wittam Miller” which sets the murder near “famous Oxford Town”, and later versions set the crime in Berkshire, Wexford or Lexington USA. The mention of Hinksey in this version brings it back to Oxfordshire as there are villages of that name in that county, less than 30 miles from where this song was collected. However, even the mention of Hinksey may be a local adaptation as older printed copies mention “Hindsey Ferry Town”, although no such location exists in the UK.
The plot is very similar to other murder ballads such as “The Old Riverside” and share some verses. The song is still in current oral tradition in traveller families.